Public Notice: Meanwhile, Back on January 6

Congressional hearings are demanding a reckoning


Donald Trump (Photo by Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0)

The news out of the Supreme Court late last week was indeed horrific – life begins at conception, but protections end at birth – and it could get worse: contraception, premarital sex, and gay marriage are on the hit list. Read more about that in our cover package starting here, but save some of your outrage for the other existential drama playing out in D.C. right now, because the congressional Jan. 6 hearings are trying to force a reckoning on nothing less than whether the Republican Party in its current state still believes in majority rule and the peaceful transfer of power in elections, or indeed still believes in objective reality. (Surely, absent the immediate life-and-death threat of the abortion ban, this would be all anyone would be talking about, right? A cynical person might even suspect that the conservative Supremes timed their announcement specifically to deflect attention from the ongoing hearings.)

What has been established thus far – and this is by Republican witnesses, questioned primarily by Republican members of Congress – is that despite what President Trump was saying publicly, and despite what a majority of Republicans still believe to this day, every legal advisor, election expert, and court was telling him that there was no appreciable voter fraud, and zero reason to disbelieve the election results. Yet despite that knowledge, Trump continued lying, actively encouraged his followers to come to D.C. and "fight," and had to be physically restrained by his Secret Service detail from going to the Capitol to lead the armed mob that was chanting, "Hang Mike Pence." That was the length to which he was willing to go to retain power, as the circle of aides willing to go along with the craziness continued to shrink, until it was basically just him and the increasingly comical Rudy Giuliani.

And that's where it should've ended.

But now, 18 months later, Trump still claims at rallies that "the election was stolen" and gets cheers for it. And in GOP primaries across the country, it is largely understood that you have to endorse that lie in order to win your party's nomination. It's easy to see why conservative Republicans such as Liz Cheney are just as aghast at this prospect as liberal Democrats are, and as eager for a reckoning.



The nearly unrecognizable Sean Penn as Watergate A.G. John Mitchell, who eventually went to jail (Image via Starz)

Hey, meanwhile, making the best of a bad situation – for a delightful, frightening, and utterly fascinating look at how a scandal like this unfolded before, and what some of the key figures are perhaps going through right now, I highly recommend Gaslit, the eight-episode Starz miniseries about the Watergate scandal, told primarily through the eyes of two whistleblowers: Martha Mitchell, wife of Attorney General John Mitchell, and relatively lowly legal aide John Dean, who rebelled at his role as scapegoat, and whose testimony opened the door for more flips going up the food chain until Richard Nixon resigned in 1974. The show's got everything: brilliant performances by Julia Roberts and Sean Penn(!) as the Mitchells, a really fun Rosenkrantz-and-Guildenstern-ish depiction of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in their early days, an over-the-top Shea Wigham as the truly psychotic FBI operative G. Gordon Liddy, and … well, I could go on and on.

But it's the parallels with January 6 that make Gaslit resonate at this moment: the slow drip of information over days and weeks, the slow turning of the screws as the participants wrestle with having to admit the truth, the slow change in public perception from "just politics as usual" to "wait, they did what?" It gives me hope.

Send gossip, dirt, innuendo, rumors, and other useful grist to nbarbaro at austinchronicle.com.

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